The Waterloo Black Hawks, one of the United States Hockey League (USHL) 16 Member Clubs, are set to continue a rich team tradition of playing on Thanksgiving night as the team will host the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders on Thursday in the 50th Thanksgiving game in Waterloo history.
“It’s tough on the players of both teams during the day, and then you get out in the environment and it’s one of the better environments that the players on both teams will play in during their entire careers,” said Waterloo President of Hockey Operations P.K. O’Handley. “After you’ve been through it as a player, you anticipate the excitement.”
This season will not only mark the 50th Thanksgiving game in Waterloo but will also be the 21st Thanksgiving meeting between the Black Hawks and RoughRiders. Waterloo holds a 12-6-2-0 edge over Cedar Rapids in the previous 20 meetings, including having won 10 of the last 12 meetings and the last two matchups by a combined score of 8-1.
In games played on November 25 the Black Hawks hold a 2-3-0-1 record, including a 3-2 overtime win (2010) and 1-2 shootout loss (2004) against the RoughRiders. Rounding out the record is an overtime win over North Iowa Huskies (1993) and losses to the Rochester Mustangs (1999), Des Moines Buccaneers (1982) and Green Bay Bobcats (1976).
In the 50 years of the Thanksgiving game, more than 20 players have gone on to play in the NHL including current Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski (1,102 NHL games), former Bill Masterton Trophy winner Jason Blake (871 games) and Craig Smith (725 games) as well as current Chicago Steel Assistant Coach Derek Whitmore. The game has also featured Stanley Cup Champion Zach Sanford and former NHL All-Rookie Team member Brock Boeser. Current NHL players also include Brandon Montour (Defense - Florida Panthers), Vinnie Hinostroza (Forward - Buffalo Sabres), Mikey Anderson (Defense - Los Angeles Kings), Cal Petersen (Goaltender - Los Angeles Kings), Jacob MacDonald (Defense - Colorado Avalanche), Mark Friedman (Defenseman - Pittsburgh Penguins), Rem Pitlick (Forward - Minnesota Wild) and Tommy Novak (Forward - Nashville Predators). Current AHL players Ian McCoshen (Defense - Henderson Silver Knights) and Jackson Cates (Forward - Lehigh Valley Phantoms) each played for the Black Hawks in a Thanksgiving game as well.
Of those players with NHL ties, Whitmore (2002), Pavelski (2002 & 2003), McCoshen (2011), Hinostroza (2011) and Cates (2017) all registered goals in a Thanksgiving game for Waterloo.
The RoughRiders have had a pair of future Stanley Cup Champions play in the Thanksgiving game, including two-time winner Alec Martinez (Defense - Vegas Golden Knights), retired Stanley Cup Champion Justin Abdelkader and defending Cup Champion Ross Colton (Forward - Stanley Cup Champion. Other players include NHL veteran Teddy Purcell as well as current Iowa Wild (AHL) Assistant Coach Richard Bachman. Current NHL players Ivan Provorov (Defense - Philadelphia Flyers), Tony DeAngelo (Defense - Carolina Hurricanes), Chris Wideman (Defense - Montreal), Adam Gaudette (Forward - Chicago Blackhawks), Alex Stalock (Goaltender - Edmonton Oilers), Jayson Megna (Forward - Colorado) and Gavin Bayreuther (Defense - Columbus) have all participated in the Thanksgiving game as well as current AHL players Matt Tennyson (Defense - Milwaukee Admirals), Matt Donovan (Defense - Milwaukee Admirals), Gerald Mayhew (Forward - Lehigh Valley Phantoms), Troy Grosenick (Goaltender - Providence Bruins), Jack Ahcan (Providence Bruins), Andrew Poturalski (Forward - Chicago Wolves) and Mitch Reinke (Defense - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins).
This season’s game will feature Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Cooper Flinton (2021, Round 7, #211) as well as NHL Draft prospects Owen Baker (Forward - Waterloo), Adam Cardona (Defense - Waterloo), Patrick Geary (Defenseman - Waterloo), Michael LaStarza (Forward - Waterloo), Gavin O’Connell (Forward - Waterloo), Eric Pohlkamp (Defense - Cedar Rapids) and Zaccharya Wisdom (Forward - Cedar Rapids), who were all named C-rated skaters on the NHL Central Scouting Preliminary List.
“When I was in college hockey, I was here for at least one [Thanksgiving game],” said Cedar Rapids RoughRiders General Manager and Head Coach Mark Carlson. “It’s become a way of life for me and quite honestly, I feel fortunate to be a part of it.”